By Jean Henry Mead
Can a great looking book cover sell a poorly written book? The answer is yes if the buyer is in a hurry and doesn’t take time to read. Conversely, does a poorly designed cover discourage sales of a good book? It can if word of mouth hasn’t proclaimed the book a good read or it wasn’t written by a favorite or bestselling author.
A book cover should represent its contents, mood and style. The artwork should not only be attractive but represent the book’s meaning as well as attract potential buyers. It should also project drama and literary punch. That’s a tall order, which doesn’t always happen. Books that are projected to sell less than 5,000 copies are deemed unworthy of original artwork and are consigned to the cheap stock illustrations.
In large publishing houses, the author, who usually wants complete approval of the book cover, rarely has the leverage to get it. Most writers have to settle for some kind of guaranteed consultation, which means that they get to see a semi-final proof. Working with a small press has its advantages if the publisher allows an author the right to reject a cover he or she don’t like, but that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes none of the artwork pleases you so you choose the one that’s least objectionable.
Because I don’t want to make negative remarks about anyone else’s books, I’ll use my own as examples. My historical Wyoming novel, Escape, has an attractive cover and remained number one in sales for two months in multi format while my recent mystery/suspense novel, A Village Shattered, topped the list for only half that time. I blame it on the lackluster cover, which is gray to represent the fog that hides the serial killer. It looks okay when held, but comes across as dreary and boring online.
The second book in the series, Diary of Murder, has a snowy mountain background instead of a diary, which has little to do with the title although mountains do play a role later in the plot. Fortunately, I was able to submit a photo I had taken of the actual area instead of the one the publisher was planning to use, but I’m still not completely happy with the results.
Another problem that comes into play is the size of the author’s name. The name should increase in size with each book published, but if you have three names like mine, it can only grow large enough to fit across the page. That’s not author ego, it tells the potential buyer your status in the publishing industry.
Color has a lot to do with the cover’s appeal. Reds, bright blues, greens and yellows catch the eye and shout, “Pick me up and read me.” While grays, tans, white and beige backgrounds don’t appear to be as interesting unless, of course, the foreground is colorful and attractively designed. Rich colors such as burgundy with gold lettering denote a richness of plot as well.
Which book covers appeal most to you and did you pick them up because of their designs?